Do You Really Need to Drink More Water?

 

When it comes to habits for better health, many experts will urge you to drink more water. In fact, water consumption is such a big deal that one website offers their top 100 apps that help you track your water consumption, and that’s just for iOS. It would seem to be a no-brainer to suggest that we should all drink more water as an act of self-care, but is it true? Is water consumption yet another habit you should be developing and tracking? Let’s find out.

Redefining Water

The image I’ve included with this post is deceptive, as is the title. All fluids count as water. That means that milk, juice, soft drinks, wine, and yes, even coffee and tea, all count towards your daily water consumption. Coffee and tea never used to count because they are considered diuretics, but the reality is that they aren’t very powerful diuretics.

Food also counts, and not just water-rich foods like lettuce, oranges, or tomatoes, but all foods. Approximately 20% of your total fluid intake comes from food, including meat and eggs.

Water in Your Body

Almost 60% of your body is water. The water in your body is responsible, among other things, for  transporting nutrients, helping you digest food, and maintaining your body temperature.salad on white plate

You lose water through urine, stool, breathing, and evaporation through your skin. Replacing lost fluid is essential to keeping your body in balance. When you put out more fluid than you take in, the result is dehydration.

The Impact of Dehydration

I often eat because I am tired and want to give myself a boost, or because I am in a bad mood, or I think I am hungry. It turns out that any of these can be symptoms of dehydration.

Problems with mood, level of  concentration and perception of task difficulty were found in females with even very mild dehydration.

Dehydration makes you feel tired and confused. If you are exercising, mild dehydration affects your stamina, although not your muscle strength.

A headache is a common symptom of dehydration. Drink 2-4 cups of water. If your headache is relieved within an hour or two, it was likely dehydration-based.

When we add in the fact that thirst can be easily mistaken for hunger, insufficient fluid can be a significant problem if you are trying to lose weight.cartoon doctor telling obese man to drink more water

Water and Weight Loss

While all fluids count when it comes to keeping your body in balance, water is the calorie-free beverage of choice if you are trying to lose weight.

However, the water itself doesn’t do a thing for weight loss. It works because when you are drinking water, you aren’t drinking calorie-laden alternatives. And when you are eating food with high water content, it looks like more food which is satisfying, and it takes longer to eat and absorb so you feel full.

For maximum effect, drink 500 mL or 2 cups of water before a meal. You should find that you lose a bit of weight because you will feel full and will eat less.

Do You Need to Drink More Water?

Drink more water or other fluids if you are constipated or if your urine is concentrated (yellow as opposed to colourless) and smelly. Other reasons for taking in more fluid include:

Otherwise, probably not. The old 8×8 (8 eight-ounce glasses of water) should be fluids not water, and there is no scientific evidence to support the claim. Instead, most of us can rely on the fact that when the water content in our bodies goes below a certain level, our thirst instinct will kick in.

I never drink water. I am afraid it will become habit-forming.

W.C. Fields

Unusual Self-Care

This was a bit of an unusual self-care post. Normally I’m encouraging you to do something that’s good for your body, mind or spirit. This time I’m certainly supporting fluid intake, especially to prevent dehydration, but my main focus is on reassuring you that here’s at least one oft-touted routine that you do NOT need to implement, track,or feel guilty about not implementing and tracking! And I, for one, am relieved.

How about you? Have you been tracking water consumption? Will you continue? What’s your fluid of choice? Mine is peppermint tea until I’m drowning in it and then, if I’m at a restaurant, I’ll jump the track for an occasional sugar-laden soft drink.

15 comments

  1. Hi Karen I am glad you posted this. I always wonder about how much water I am drinking. Funny thing for me is as long as I can remember I can, maybe drink two large glasses of water a day, no more. Not 8, 8 ounce glasses. Maybe half or a bit less. I do drink coffee in the morning, but have been easing off of it for health reasons, I drink warm water in it’s place. Not near as satisfying but it is one more glass of water in my day. Thank you for this post, I think I may be getting enough water for me in a day. I will throw away the guilt of not enough water.

    1. Glad to hear you are tossing any guilt about water consumption, Donna. I figure we all have enough guilt about all of the things that do matter; no point stressing over one that doesn’t!

  2. Thanks for this post, Karen. I have been trying to get more water into my day but I am not fanatically tracking it and trying to attain a certain amount of water per day. I am trying to remember to grab a bottle of water when we head out in the car and to sub out tea or coffee during the day with water for a change of pace. I think I will continue to do this and will not bother tracking my intake (I haven’t been tracking it anyway, so thank you for letting me know it is not necessary).

    I did know about water content in food counting toward water intake. I am pleased to hear even coffee and tea count toward water intake now. I, too, heard all about the diuretic brew ha ha (pun totally intended 😉 ). I have actually been reading some respected health websites that state that although they are diuretics the amount of tea or coffee you would have to consume before that diuretic effect became an issue was basically prohibitive.

    1. I think it’s great that you are using water from home as a substitute for coffees and teas when you’re out and about, Susan. Healthier but, perhaps as important, much cheaper than the coffee shops!

  3. Great post, Karen. I have been trying to increase my water intake. I only manage to drink about two full glasses of water per day, but as you say, that is supplemented by water in other forms. Thanks for helping to ease the guilt.

  4. I think about this a lot and then fail to drink enough water during the day! I do enjoy drinking hot water though once in a while. This is something I need to do something about.

    1. If you’re concerned about it Fran, something that can work is to pour yourself a big glass of water and then not allow yourself to go to the bathroom until you’ve finished it! A massage therapist told me that once and it worked – for as long as I remembered to pour myself the big glass of water. On your return from the bathroom, you’re supposed to pour another one.

  5. It is interesting to read about this updated view on fluid intake. It is something that Rob and I have a difference of opinion about. He doesn’t like water, and is perfectly happy to get 90% of his daily fluid intake from coffee and tea, and maybe a glass of wine or whiskey. Whereas, I have found that if I don’t drink enough, I feel fatigued and get headaches. I used to drink vast amounts of tea. Now I am trying to substitute water for some of the tea, and drink water instead of soft drinks or juice. I really don’t need the sugar in those beverages.

    Jude

    1. Hi Jude, I have the same problem with fatigue and headaches if I don’t get enough water, or at least enough peppermint tea which, the way I drink it, is little more than hot water with a bit of flavour. From the research I’ve done, our fatigue and headaches are probably signs of mild dehydration. I tend to miss those signals and eat to overcome fatigue. Your effort to drink more water is the smart alternative!

  6. I often find that if I’m feeling poorly – or just a little “off” – a big glass of water or two helps to make me feel better right away. I remember how important it was to keep my elderly father hydrated. If he fell behind in his intake (his caregivers weren’t always paying enough attention), he’d experience dizziness, weakness, and, too often, would get a urinary tract infection. He was in his 80s and early 90s when this was happening, but I imagine we all need to make sure we drink enough water no matter our age.

  7. My dad was similar, Janis. He never drank water, used to trot out the line – “Water is for washing in.” So for him I was particularly glad that all fluids count in terms of keeping us hydrated.
    I could never change dad’s mind about water, but I too find that sometimes I just CRAVE a big glass or two of water.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *